Professionalize Teaching in Higher Education
For the past six months I have been ranting about all the problems I faced in Higher Education. I am going to change my tune a bit and focus on how we can change Higher Education so that it becomes more user-friendly and helpful.
Recently I met a chair of a department in another college who said that she would not recommend a career in higher education to anyone. The pay is low and the support is non-existent. She said that when bureaucrats or would-be professors are interviewed for a job, they should ask them the following question: “How much would you pay for this job, because we pay for our jobs every day of the week?
What did she mean? She meant that as professors we have to support our own programs, because bureaucrats have other goals when they land their jobs at a university. There is no direction or help when it comes to issues that affect the classroom, tenure and promotion, or collegiality. Bureaucrats hire professors and send them off to sea, to swim alone.
In the next few blogs, I will offer suggestions on how to improve working conditions, teaching, and organizational structure, etc. within Higher Education.
Professionalize Doctoral Programs
Obtaining my Ph.D. was very challenging. I had to test out of four languages, in addition to classes, the dissertation, and the comprehensive exams. It takes a long time to climb that steep mountain. Most Ph.D. programs ignore the fact that many students who make it through their programs are going to be teaching in Higher Education.
Toward the end of my Ph.D. program, I took classes in Higher Education Administration that were not required in my program. These classes helped me throughout my career. Those classes included: Law and Higher Education, Personality Theories, Counseling in Higher Education, and more.
License Professors to Teach
It is assumed that if you have obtained a Ph.D. that you must be smart enough to teach. Wrong! I have watched faculty attempt to teach classes and fail to fill a 45 minute class. They simply did not know how to teach.
All would-be professors should be schooled in teaching methodologies (or whatever the current buzz words are) for engaging and helping students to learn. They should be required to teach before they are given that golden contract at a university. They should obtain a license to teach that guarantees that they know what they are doing in the classroom.
Certify Professors in Technology
They should also obtain certifications in the newest technologies. I have watched bureaucrats give new hires the responsibilities of developing online classes. Those new hires had no knowledge of Black Board or any other online software. Students suffer under these conditions.
Require Courses in Higher Education
Most professors are naive when it comes to politics on campus. They know nothing about organizational structures, development of courses, committee work, public work, and more. At a recent university where I taught, chairs would open departmental meetings with prayers. A vice-president of students advertised a single religious organization in order to raise funds for that organization. One director invited a lecturer to testify about her personal religion. A criminal justice course included films and handouts that denigrated non-Christian religions. And a President hired a Provost because he/she was of the same faith. All of these activities violated the separation of church and state rules. And there are many other issues that could be addressed here.
None of the bureaucrats who were my supervisors knew anything about law and Higher Education. They made decisions based upon an empty bucket. All professors and bureaucrats should take courses in Law and Higher Education.
After the Hire, Assign a Guide
Faculty need tremendous help in order to adjust to a university system–and to become successful in it. Universities should assign a guide that helps professors through committees, bureaucratic systems, hard and soft technology (What good is software if you can’t work the machines?), benefits, grant opportunities, support groups, and, of course, teaching in the classroom. This guide should remain with the new-hire until they land tenure. The tenure process is daunting, and every college and university has different requirements. (The “good ole’ boys” still reign in many institutions, so no matter how good your student evaluations or publications are, they will promote their friends first.)
Teaching methodologies differ from school to school. When I first arrived at my last job, I gave essay tests. I, soon, learned that the majority of professors did not give essay tests. If I had a class of thirty students, after grading an essay test, I would have thirty students at my door demanding a change in their grade for being unfairly graded. No matter how well I schooled the students in how to take an essay exam, or how the exams were to be graded, they came streaming and sometimes yelling at my door. The harassment was intentional, and I soon fell in line with the rest of the professors in order to protect my sanity.
And some universities put too much power in the hands of students when it comes to tenure and promotion. So often, obtaining good student evaluations, which underlie tenure, means playing the happy politician with students and grade inflation explodes. Education suffers when professors are forced to dummy down the curriculum in order to obtain tenure and keep their jobs.
To be continued …
As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge